Footballers union FIFPro supports teams using fourth substitute

Players from 27 different countries all voiced support for the addition of another substitute in some capacity.

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GENEVA — A proposal to let football teams use a fourth substitute has been strongly supported by the global players’ union.

FIFPro published a survey of its members Tuesday in response to a request from the game’s rule-making board for more research. The International Football Association Board twice recently rejected allowing an additional substitute in extra time of knockout matches.

FIFPro said 84 percent of players it asked in 27 different countries want a fourth substitute, either in extra time or the regulation 90 minutes of all matches.

”The response to our survey is overwhelming,” FIFPro secretary general Theo van Seggelen said in a statement. ”It’s a position that will challenge traditional views, but the players have one of the most important roles in this debate.”

Germany’s World Cup-winning coach Joachim Loew spoke during the tournament in Brazil and since of his support for another option in extra time to replace tired and injured players or to switch tactics.

FIFA’s decision to allow unrestricted use of three substitutes was made 20 years ago. One year earlier, three substitutes were allowed on condition that one was a goalkeeper.

In 2012, IFAB rejected the fourth substitute proposal despite support from a FIFA task force chaired by Franz Beckenbauer, plus the governing body’s medical and football committees.

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They suggested that fourth substitutes in extra time would help ”maintain the technical level until the 120th minute and to protect the health of the players.”

IFAB rejected the proposal again in February, though handed the dossier to its newly created advisory panels of former players and technical experts.

FIFPro’s research was shared Monday at a meeting of the IFAB players’ panel.

Of 244 FIFPro members asked, 119 agreed with allowing fourth substitutes in extra time, and a further 86 favor using them in regulation time. Just 39 players suggested retaining the current rule.

”Our research is representative of players on all continents and they have clearly shown a preference for the game to evolve and show greater flexibility, especially during matches that go to extra time,” Van Seggelen said.